[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CONN., PENN., FLA., TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Mar 22 23:00:43 CST 2005
Murder victims' families call for end to death penalty
Some family members of murder victims are calling on state lawmakers to
abolish the death penalty.
About a dozen people are at the Capitol today, distributing booklets to
state legislators that include stories of families who don't support
Walter Everett, the pastor at Hartford's United Methodist Church, is in
the book. His son was murdered more than 17 years ago.
Everett says he was initially very angry with his son's killer, but
realized that the anger wasn't helpful. Everett has since forgiven the man
and even spoke at his parole hearing, asking for a shorter sentence.
Everett says the death penalty is more about vengeance than justice.
The Judiciary Committee recently passed a bill abolishing capital
punishment in Connecticut and replacing it with life in prison without a
chance for parole.
The full House of Representatives could vote as early as next week on the
bill. It's questionable, however, whether there are enough votes to
support the legislation.
(source: Associated Press)
Santorum rethinks death penalty stance
A new poll showing that Catholics are backing off support for the death
penalty was no surprise to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, an outspoken
conservative Catholic, who says he has been re-examining his own view.
He has not become an abolitionist, and he believes church teaching against
the death penalty carries less weight than its longer-standing opposition
to abortion. But he questions what he once unquestioningly supported.
"I felt very troubled about cases where someone may have been convicted
wrongly. DNA evidence definitely should be used when possible," he said.
"I agree with the pope that in the civilized world ... the application of
the death penalty should be limited. I would definitely agree with that. I
would certainly suggest there probably should be some further limits on
what we use it for."
He spoke in a brief phone interview after the U.S. Catholic bishops
launched a renewed push against the death penalty. Their poll showed that
Catholics who attend Mass daily -- among the Americans most likely to have
voted for President Bush -- also are among the most likely to oppose
Overall, the poll showed that Catholic opposition to the death penalty has
grown from 27 % in 2001 to 48 %. Opposition jumps to 63 percent among
daily Mass-goers -- making it 1 % above the percentage of daily
communicants who voted for Bush in 2004. Of those who say they only attend
Mass on holidays, 62 % support use of the death penalty.
According to www.ontheissues.org, which tracks voting on social issues, in
1994 Santorum voted against replacing the death penalty with life
imprisonment, and in 1996 he helped to kill an effort to make it easier
for death row inmates to appeal their convictions.
"I never thought about it that much when I was really a supporter of the
death penalty. I still see it as potentially valuable, but I would be one
to urge more caution than I would have in the past," he said.
Santorum was not surprised by the finding that daily communicants are the
group most opposed to capital punishment. "Those are the folks who are
most likely to listen to the pope, and the pope has been very clear about
his personal opposition to the death penalty," he said.
The Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty was launched at
a news conference with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, DC, who
spoke of his own change of heart. Born into a family of police officers,
he said, "support for the death penalty was part of growing up."
Later, he said, "I was moved by the call of Pope John Paul II to be
He noted that the U.S. bishops have been speaking against the death
penalty for 25 years.
The data consisted of two polls by Zogby International, which surveyed
1,785 Catholics in November and 1,000 early this month. The March poll
showed that 31 percent strongly opposed the death penalty and 17 percent
somewhat opposed it, while 22 % strongly supported the death penalty and
26 % somewhat supported it.
In this week's Pittsburgh Catholic, Bishop Donald Wuerl will address the
"The church's opposition to the death penalty in no way minimizes the
horror of the actions of those who take the lives of others, particularly
when they do so in a senseless and brutal manner," Wuerl wrote.
But "we are called to recognize the face of God in everyone -- even the
criminal. The destruction of human life, even in the form of capital
punishment, takes away a gift that is God's alone to take. Capital
punishment is irreparable."
The bishops of Pennsylvania first issued a statement against the death
penalty about 20 years ago, then updated it in 2001, said Carolyn Astfalk,
comunications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.
In the last legislative session, her office supported a bill to ban the
death penalty for mentally retarded Pennsylvanians, but it failed because
the House and Senate defined mental retardation differently.
(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Murder suspect at center of human rights campaign
An international human rights group is rallying around a 70-year-old Moore
Township woman accused of killing her 84-year-old neighbor.
Amnesty International is urging its members to address letters opposing
the death penalty to the Northampton County District Attorney's office and
The letters express sympathy for the family of the victim, Marguerite
"Tutti" Eyer, but say the pursuit of the death penalty against a defendant
who was at least 70 years old at the time of the crime violates
"We must all be aware of the disastrous results of breaking international
law for our common civilization," an advocate from Germany wrote in one of
six letters addressed to The Express-Times.
Prosecutors have so far stopped short of saying they will seek the death
penalty against Kathy MacClellan if she is found guilty. Prosecutors on
Friday filed, as a matter of procedure, a notice of aggravating
"If one aggravating factor is present, we must give notice to the
defendant that this is potentially a death-penalty case," Northampton
County District Attorney John Morganelli said.
Prosecutors will not decide whether to seek the death penalty until closer
to the trial date, which has not been set, Morganelli said.
Eyer was found Feb. 7 covered in blood in her Springridge Road home in the
Hickory Hills development. With her dying breath, she allegedly told a
neighbor, "Kathy hit me with a hammer."
Police said they found a bloody hammer and Eyer's wallet, driver's license
and checkbook in MacClellan's home the day after the murder. The coroner
said Eyer was struck 37 times in the head and had wounds indicating she
was trying to fight off blows.
Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of Amnesty International's program to
abolish the death penalty, said her organization typically campaigns
against the death penalty in specific cases once an execution date is set.
The group on Tuesday issued a "pre-emptive urgent action" in the
MacClellan case because putting to death a person 70 years or older at the
time of the crime is "beyond the pale," Gunawardena-Vaughn said.
In all cultures the "ultimate aim is to protect the very young and very
old. We generally don't come up with harshest penalties for these groups,"
Amnesty International cites as international law the American Convention
of Human Rights. The United States signed the resolution in 1977 but has
not ratified it.
"By becoming a signatory, the U.S.A. obliged itself under international
law not to do anything to undermine the treaty pending its decision on
whether to ratify it," Gunawardena-Vaughn wrote in a notice to members.
The human rights organization unconditionally opposes the death penalty,
which it says has been abolished in law or practice in 118 countries. No
one who was over 70 at the time of the crime has been executed in the
United States since 1977, according to the organization.
Amnesty International urged members to immediately send "brief personal
letters of concern" regarding the MacClellan case.
Northampton County First Deputy District Attorney Paula A. Roscioli said
her office received three letters from Germany, Wales and England. The
letters have no bearing on how prosecutors are handling the case, she
"The public opinion that we would be concerned about is that of the
Northampton County community," Roscioli said. "That is the community we
are responsible for. We have a responsibility to uphold the law.
"We're doing our jobs here."
(sourec: The Express-Times, March 17)
Lawmaker Asks High Court for Names of Bad Lawyers
In Tallahassee, a state lawmaker has asked the Florida Supreme Court to
back up its criticisms about some death row lawyers by naming names.
That was one of several questions that state Rep. Bruce Kyle, who chairs
the House Judiciary Council, sent in a letter to Chief Justice Barbara
The Florida Supreme Court is required by law to make sure death row
inmates get "quality representation," Kyle wrote last week. He asked what
the court has done to carry that out.
"Definitely there's conflicting evidence on whether or not there's a
problem and we'll see if the Supreme Court gives me names, we'll see if
there's a problem," Kyle said Tuesday. "If they don't, then it would seem
to me that it's just rhetoric."
Justice Raoul Cantero recently criticized the performance of some of the
private attorneys who contract with the state to represent death row
lawyers. The attorneys are generally referred to as "registry" counsel
because they are put on a state list or registry of private attorneys
interested in handling capital cases.
"Some of the worst lawyering I've seen is from some of the registry
counsel, unfortunately," Cantero told the Commission on Capital Cases, an
oversight board set up by the Legislature to monitor death row appeals,
adding that some have little or no experience in death penalty cases.
"They have not raised the right issues from our review of the record,"
Cantero told the panel, which includes lawmakers and judges, during its
January meeting. "Sometimes they raise too many issues and still they
haven't raised the right one."
But earlier this month, Kyle's committee heard testimony from state
attorneys who handle capital appeals. Those lawyers said they had not seen
any problems in the registry lawyers they had worked with.
Kyle said he hadn't heard back from the court, which he described as "the
final arbiter of who can even practice law."
Kyle said he didn't know if the House would do anything on the issue.
Craig Waters, a spokesman for the state's high court, said justices were
not giving interviews on the subject of death row lawyers.
Florida has 368 people on death row. For the most part they are
represented by lawyers who are employed by the state and work for one of
two regional agencies.
But the state also has a registry of private attorneys who handle cases in
the northern part of the state and when there's a conflict of interest
Until 2 years ago, there were three regional agencies and they covered the
entire state. But the Legislature abolished the northern office because of
arguments that registry attorneys could get the job done more cheaply.
There are 140 attorneys on the registry; 80 have cases.
(source: Associated Press)
Informant also in 'Lollipops' case
The key witness in the Rilya Wilson murder case may also testify against
another murder defendant: Ana Maria Cardona, mother of 'Baby Lollipops.'
Robin Lunceford, the jailhouse informant and key witness in the Rilya
Wilson murder case, may also be testifying in one of Miami-Dade County's
other notorious child-murder cases -- the "Baby Lollipops" trial.
2 weeks before a grand jury indicted Rilya's caregiver, Geralyn Graham, on
murder charges based on Lunceford's statements, the Miami-Dade State
Attorney's Office named Lunceford -- a prolific robber and prison-escape
artist -- as a witness against Ana Maria Cardona, accused of killing her
3-year-old son and dumping his body on a roadside in 1990 in a crime that
horrified the community.
Lunceford, who is facing armed robbery charges, told investigators in
August that Graham confessed to her in jail about Rilya's death, offering
details that only could come from Graham, prosecutors said. According to
Lunceford, Graham said she suffocated or smothered the missing foster
child in December 2000 -- though investigators have not found the
Graham's lawyer, Brian Tannebaum, questions Lunceford's motives and her
credibility. If convicted on the current robbery charge, Lunceford faces
life in prison as a career criminal. She has been convicted of 15
robberies in 3 states since 1980, and pulled off 3 prison breaks, once
scaling a 20-foot wall to make her escape, court records show.
"This woman looks like one of the worst criminals I've ever seen,"
Tannebaum said, adding that his client's confession is a figment of
Prosecutors would not comment Monday about Lunceford's statement in the
Rilya case, or her expected testimony in the Baby Lollipops case. But
prosecutors have said they did not make any plea deals in exchange for her
cooperation in either case.
"We don't have any deals," said Lunceford's lawyer, Louis Casuso. "She
feels bad about [Rilya]. . . . She seems very sincere."
Casuso said he didn't know she was listed as a witness in Baby Lollipops
before The Herald contacted him.
It's not clear what information Lunceford has about Cardona -- or where
they may have met. Lunceford has served time at the Broward Correctional
Institution, where Cardona spent almost 10 years on women's death row
before the Florida Supreme Court overturned her conviction in 2002 and
ordered a new trial.
But any contact between Lunceford and Cardona would have been limited
because death row inmates are kept segregated, said Debbie Buchanan, of
the Florida Department of Corrections.
A Miami-Dade jury convicted Cardona in the death of her son, Lazaro
Figueroa, after prosecutors described months of abuse and neglect that
ended with a fatal beating in October 1990. The boy's body, in a T-shirt
patterned with lollipops, was found on a Miami Beach road.
In 2002, the Florida Supreme Court overturned her conviction because some
evidence was withheld from defense lawyers. She is awaiting a new trial
later this year.
Two prosecutors handling the Cardona case met with Lunceford in jail
earlier this year, but they didn't take notes, court records show.
Cardona's lawyer, assistant Miami-Dade public defender Edith Georgi, said
she has not deposed Lunceford to learn what evidence she provided. "We're
just embarking on the investigation," Georgi said.
Lunceford's criminal record spans 25 years, and is so long and sordid that
it's difficult to determine her real name. She has used no less than 13
aliases, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In 1980, she was arrested in Chicago after she robbed 3 men with a knife.
She jumped bail and went to Nevada, where she was arrested for armed
In 1986, she escaped from a Carson City prison, walking away from a work
A month later, she was back in custody in Illinois. Again she escaped,
scrambling over a 20-foot wall topped with barb wire to flee the Cook
"This defendant is extremely dangerous," the Chicago prosecutor wrote.
Lunceford came to Florida. After another robbery in 1986, she stole a car
and nearly ran over a Miami-Dade police officer, records show.
In 1987, she pleaded guilty to 13 robberies in Miami-Dade and Broward
counties and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. 6 years later, she
escaped from prison in Marion County, but authorities captured her three
In 2001, Florida officials transferred Lunceford to Illinois to finish her
sentence there. She was released on parole in February 2004.
As part of her parole, Lunceford was supposed to attend a mental-health
program and receive drug treatment. Instead, she came to Fort Lauderdale
without permission, according to an Illinois arrest warrant.
On May 12, Lunceford was arrested with another man after police said she
robbed a woman at knife-point outside a Miami Beach Walgreens. The alleged
victim, a therapist who works with sex-abuse victims, said in a deposition
that Lunceford seemed unbalanced, "almost like bipolar or like
Lunceford has pleaded not guilty and faces trial in May.
(source: Miami Herald)
High court rejects reinstating escaped inmate's death sentence
The Supreme Court declined today to consider whether a Tennessee death row
inmate should get a new trial in Kentucky for a mass prison escape that
led to charges in Tennessee.
Justices let stand a lower court ruling in the case of Derrick Quintero,
who was among eight inmates involved in a breakout from the Kentucky State
Penitentiary in 1988. It was the 2nd time justices were asked to hear the
appeal; in 2002, they ordered a lower court to rethink its ruling throwing
out Quintero's sentence.
Quintero is on death row in Tennessee for the murder of an elderly couple,
Buford and Myrtle Vester of Dover, in the course of a fugitive flight
through Tennessee. The rulings in the escape case do not affect Quintero's
(source: Associated Press)
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